If you've watched television in the last year or so, you have seen a commercial that highlights the entire line of Honda products. This includes outboard motors, generators, lawnmowers, ATVs, personal watercraft, motorcycles, electric hybrid cars, CART cars, passenger cars, and SUVs. Even with this variety of products, everything Honda makes is consistently reliable, well-designed, and efficient. Honda is a company that continues to evolve, and, as time passes, the company is designing larger vehicles to match consumer demand. The CR-V was its first entry in the SUV market, and was such a success that Honda followed it up with the Pilot, a midsize SUV based on a platform that is shared with the Acura MDX. While the two vehicles share common underpinnings, that is where the similarity ends.
The Pilot is its own independent SUV, with a look and feel that is very unlike the MDX. While the Acura is a luxury vehicle, the Honda was built to provide a lot of function and plenty of amenities for the price. Not only that, but the MDX is biased more toward highway driving, while the more trail-capable Pilot comes with VTM-4 four-wheel drive, and has a less cushy suspension. The Pilot we tested was the EX trim level, and as such, came with all of the bells and whistles available. It had plenty of power and a seemingly psychic transmission: it shifted precisely when needed, something that doesn't always happen with automatics. The judges liked the Pilot's smooth acceleration, but some of them felt that the throttle response could have use a little more tweaking. The four-wheel disc brakes and ABS worked just as nicely as the engine, performing flawlessly, without jarring the driver or passengers.
Styling is pleasing to the eye without making any waves, both inside and outside the Redrock Pearl Pilot. Some found the body to look like a supersized CR-V, while others saw a striking resemblance to the MDX. Inside, the leather seating surfaces, doors, and dash were done in charcoal gray. A trend in many of the newest SUVs is an adaptable center console. Some vehicles have a console that will slide forward or back to accommodate a purse or briefcase; others use netting to allow for expandable room for larger items. The Pilot's multi-purpose storage area combines a variety of cargo options, including a covered center console, two cupholders, and another storage area. This area has a sliding panel that covers it, and when opened, has hinging dividers that let the driver decide what shape he or she wants the area to take.
Just above the center storage area are the instrument panel, HVAC (heat, vent, and A/C) controls, stereo, and navigation system. The testers enjoyed how easy it was to operate the knobs and buttons that control the climate of the cabin, and were pleased with the quality of the sound system. What really impressed everyone, though, was the satellite-linked navigation system. Our judges found the Pilot had the navigation system that was the easiest to use - not just in comparison with the other competitors, but out of all the SUVs we have ever driven. No one needed to read directions to learn how to use it, and everyone felt the inclusion of gas stations and fast-food restaurants would be welcome information on a road trip. (While it was agreed that perhaps the fast-food angle would not be the healthiest dining option to include on the system, something's better than nothing when you need a meal.) The navigation system shares its LCD screen with a back-up camera that, when the Pilot is in Reverse, shows the driver what is behind the vehicle.
All in all, the Pilot is an excellent vehicle and stays true to the Honda philosophy. It is well constructed, with plenty of power for its size and weight, safety features that make it a great family vehicle, innovative technology in the drivetrain and the interior, and inoffensive styling. With pricing that begins in the mid-$20,000s (for the LX), the Pilot is a great value.
Base Price: $32,520
Price As Tested: $32,980
Engine: 3.5L SOHC VTEC V-6
Horsepower: 240 hp at 5,400 rpm
Torque: 242 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm
Suspension: Strut-type (front); multi-link with trailing arm (rear)
Brakes: ABS disc (front & rear)
4WD/Transmission: VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management 4WD)/five-speed automatic with Grade Logic Control
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Length: 188.0 in
Width: 77.3 in
Height: 70.6 in
Curb Weight: 4,439 lb
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lb
Fuel Economy (city/highway): 17/22 mpg